Box Office: 'Ghostbusters' Wins Friday But Ain't No Monster

Hopper Stone/Sony Pictures
'Ghosbusters'

The reboot will get slimed by 'The Secret Life of Pets' for the weekend; Woody Allen's 'Cafe Society' and Dinesh D'Souza's doc 'Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party' prosper at the specialty box office, while Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult's 'Equals' falls off a cliff.

Thirty-two years after the original film became a massive box-office hit, Paul Feig's Ghostbusters is finally rolling out in theaters after months of debate over the filmmaker's decision to cast female leads.

The big-budget reboot — arguably the most talked-about film of summer — won the Friday box-office race in North America with an estimated $17.2 million from 3,962 locations but on Saturday will be overtaken by holdover The Secret Life of Pets, which is expected to earn $50 million for the weekend as it races past the $200 million mark domestically.

Conversely, Ghostbusters is looking at $43 million-$44 million, a less-than-spectacular opening considering the movie's $144 million net budget (rebates and tax incentives brought it down from $154 million). Sony is being more bullish in projecting $46.5 million.

Either way, Ghostbusters will be the biggest domestic opening ever for Feig and his frequent collaborator, Melissa McCarthy, but it's also their first franchise tentpole. Their current best is The Heat, which debuted to $39.1 million.

Not surprisingly, Ghostbusters is skewing female (54 percent). Overall, audiences gave the film a B+ CinemaScore.

In the first film, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Harold Ramis famously starred as the Ghostbusters. This time out, the ghoul chasers are played by McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.

Sony, trying to manage expectations, predicted a domestic debut of $38 million-$40 million heading into the weekend. But others thought the film could cross $50 million, thanks to generally strong reviews (73 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and an aggressive marketing campaign. NRG, the industry's leading tracking service, even had it debuting to $54 million.

The reboot, also featuring Chris Hemsworth and boasting a number of cameos by stars of the original series, including Murray, is once again set in Manhattan, where a ghost invasion forces a couple of paranormal enthusiasts, a nuclear engineer and subway worker to band together to stop the threat. Ivan Reitman, who directed the 1984 movie, produced the update with former Sony studio chief Amy Pascal.

The Secret Life of Pets looks to earn a strong $55 million in its second outing.

The Infiltrator, starring Bryan Cranston as a federal agent who infiltrates Pablo Escobar's drug cartel, is this weekend's only other new wide release, although it is only playing in some 1,600 theaters.

From Broad Green Pictures and directed by Brad Furman, the drama looks to earn about $5 million in its five-day debut (The Infiltrator opened Wednesday) after nabbing an A- CinemaScore. John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger, Benjamin Bratt, Yul Vazquez and Amy Ryan also star.

There's a flurry of new offerings at the specialty box office. The latest documentary from conservative filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza, Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party, is scoring one of the biggest openings of the year to date for a doc with a projected weekend debut of $102,000 from three theaters in Houston, Dallas and Phoenix for a hefty location average of $30,523.

Hillary's America will score the second-best theater average of the weekend after Woody Allen's Cafe Society, which is on course to earn a pleasing $325,000 for the weekend from five theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a location average of $65,000 — the top showing of the year to date for any film.

Amazon Studios paid a sizeable $15 million for Cafe Society, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristin Stewart, and is partnering with Lionsgate on the theatrical release.

For Stewart, Cafe Society will no doubt lessen the sting of Equals, which is bombing in its limited debut despite its A-list cast (Stewart stars opposite Nicholas Hoult in Drake Doremus' sci-fi love story). Equals is expected to earn less $6,000 from three theaters; one in New York and two in Canada. A24 partnered with DirecTV on the movie, with DirecTV making it available on premium VOD at the end of May.

July 15, 12:30 p.m. Updated with weekend estimates.

July 16, 7:30 a.m. Updated with Friday numbers and revised weekend estimates.

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